By Robert J. Hall
“I quit.” These are the last words you want to hear from your valued employees in the midst of your busy season. Hiring and training replacement employees is expensive and time consuming. The negative feelings that often surface when employees quit or have to be fired can poison the atmosphere in your company and lead to even more HR problems.
High turnover is a persistent problem for many small businesses. If you are sick and tired of having to replace your employees, you may want to re-think how you are managing them. Try these five tips to lead your team more effectively, and improve employee retention:
1. Hire smart.
One of the biggest reasons for employees to move on is that they are not a good fit for the company in the first place. By hiring more selectively, you can improve your chances of landing a new hire who will remain loyal to your company.
When hiring, pay as much or more attention to the candidate’s attitude, personality and intelligence as to his or her experience. While experience is important, it is much easier to teach job skills than it is to teach a person to have a positive attitude or good work ethic. You also want to be sure the person will be a good fit with your company culture. If you can, try to find ways for your candidates to interact with your existing employees during the hiring process. Their feedback will be invaluable as you make your final hiring decisions.
2. Hold a proactive expectations exchange.
During orientation, sit with your new employee to discuss your respective expectations. Go over a pre-written checklist of topics, including performance, payroll, time off, communication protocol, safety practices, and any other issues that might cause future misunderstandings. If your employee knows what to aim for, he or she will feel more secure, and more likely to excel. Similarly, you will understand what motivates the new hire, so you can better manage his or her performance. Your sincere interest in his or her point of view will also encourage loyalty.
3. Hold regular employee reviews.
Schedule time to meet with each employee two to four times a year to review progress and performance. Resist the temptation to make this a one-sided judgment session. Instead, ask employees to critique their own performance, and compare that with their expectations and yours. Find out what is working for your employees and what isn’t, and together come up with a plan that will help optimize their performance in the future. Don’t forget to praise them for aspects of their job they are doing well.
4. Customize your employee benefits.
Business owners and their employees don’t always agree about the quality of workplace benefits. Check in with your employees to learn what is important to them, and then do your best to accommodate requests that can improve employee retention. You might be surprised to find that what makes your employees the happiest may cost you little or nothing to provide. For example, accommodating flexible work hours or offering a generous employee discount can boost the value of working for you, without affecting your bottom line.
5. Invest in technology that improves your employees’ comfort and working conditions.
Workers can get frustrated if they feel unable to deliver their best. Research your options to find solutions that are a good fit for your team’s needs. For instance, many studies show that daylighting (the practice of placing windows and reflective surfaces to maximize natural light) increases office workers’ productivity, and keeps them healthier and happier, too. Also, if you run a company fleet, your drivers will likely appreciate technologies like GPS tracking, which gives them proof of accountability in the event of a customer dispute.
These are just a few of many things you can do to reduce employee turnover in your business. As you think of more, keep the three R’s in mind: respect, rewards and recognition. Anything that will promote these things will likely improve loyalty and keep your employees by your side.
Robert J. Hall is president of Track Your Truck, a leader in GPS vehicle tracking systems and software for small and midsized companies.